More young attorneys taking on document review to pay the bills

By Tom Gantert

Legal News

About three years ago, Jackson attorney Craig Pappin walked into a large room in Kalamazoo County full of computers and entered the world of "document review."

Pappin estimated he was among as many as 50 lawyers all going over legal material gained in discovery mostly in the form of electronic communications. For several hours a day, Pappin would review emails looking for something relative to the lawsuit he was hired to review.

"I wasn't sure at that time where my law paycheck would be coming from," said Pappin. "It was low pay. But the key was it was pay. It was steady work. It was full time for the term of that project."

Document review work has become increasingly appealing to attorneys and many say the number of attorneys exceed the work available.

Craigslist ads in Michigan advertise for "document review" work. The ad states projects can be 40 hours a week with eight hours billable daily at a rate of $21 an hour. Local attorneys with experience say the pay for document review work is within the $20 to $25 an hour range.

Jay Horowitz, founder and CEO of Strategic Legal Solutions in New York, runs online ads in Michigan trying to recruit lawyers to do document review work. Horowitz says Michigan is his primary source for the work, which has been done overseas in the past.

"It's not your traditional, typical legal job," Horowitz said. "But it is turning into a career path."

Horowitz said he has "permanent space" for 300 attorneys in Michigan to do document review work at any given time. He says he thinks Michigan is a prime place to get attorneys because of the numerous law schools in the state.

"Michigan is our primary source," Horowitz said. "When we are looking for the best value for document review, we are in Michigan."

Contract lawyers are evaluated for speed, efficiency and accuracy, Horowitz said. Those that do well can advance and get involved in "quality control" in future projects, he said.

Jackson attorney Ron Fabian said he had a relative who oversaw a large lawsuit against a computer company and had more than 3.5 million pages to review. Fabian said that relative eventually hired more than 200 attorneys to do the document review work.

Fabian said document review work is tempting to many young attorneys out of law school who are having a hard time getting hired and have large student loan debt.

"Right now there are a million lawyers more than we need," Fabian said. "There are no real jobs. So they are hired out as contract employees and being paid next to nothing for document work."

Most document review work is in the Kalamazoo or Detroit area.

Published: Tue, Apr 23, 2013